Friday, December 23, 2016

The Gift of the Kingdom--by Linden Malki

"The first Christmas came amidst distress over — just imagine! — government and governmental questions. The rule of the Romans and their Jewish allies would have been blown away by a good election. But of course there weren't any elections back then, just notifications of who was the new emperor or king or prefect. The perpetrators (from the imperial standpoint) of the first Christmas worked around the realities of power and force. These they did not seek to do away with. In their stead they erected something higher: the love of God."*
The contrast between two attitudes is very clear in the last two people we've looked at in this Advent season. Herod the Great was a classic politician--he climbed his way up a ladder based on his father's political contacts and his efforts to make the right friends in Rome and the right marriages in Palestine.  He finagled his contacts in Rome into first a governorship and then the position of "King of the Jews" over most of Palestine. Judea had been a more or less independent kingdom from 163 BC until taken over by Rome in 63 BC. The history of this period was marked by war and intrigue by Greeks, Jews and Rome.  

The other lifestyle we saw is a young woman we know as Mary. Her faith and obedience to God made her a person God could use in a unique way: as the mother of the true Messiah.  Her attitude, when approached by Gabriel with this message, was clear and simple: "I am the Lord's servant; let it be as you say."  There was a very good chance at one point that her son could become victims of the murderous Herod, but Joseph's immediate and unquestioned obedience to the angel of the Lord saved their lives. Her grace and obedience carried her through even the worst possible thing that could happen to a mom, and to a miracle on the other side.

Right now in our country we are seeing a tremendous amount of faith in politics--of all sorts--to a point that God is ignored, rejected, or invoked to support human goals. God is not the servant of our political and social wants--the Kingdom that was the ultimate Christmas gift is out of this world!

* William Murchison, 12/20/16

 Judea had been a more or less independent kingdom from 163 BC when a family of Jewish priests, who were called Maccabee (probably derived from the word for "hammer") and who had started a guerilla uprising against a Hellenist kingdom based in Syria who were demanding pagan sacrifices. The recovery and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem is commemorated in the festival of Hannukah; and the Maccabee kingdom, always caught between the kingdoms based in Egypt and Syria and ridden with internal power struggles, looked to Rome for backing and wound up being invaded by Pompey in 63 BC and brought under Roman control. There were those who saw Judas Maccabee as a Messiah figure, but his position and power were based on war and intrigue.  He was killed in battle, and the military and political struggles continued.  Herod's third and favorite wife, Mariamne, was one of the last of the Maccabean line; she and her two sons were killed by Herod in the internal politics of the palace. Herod did keep kosher and observed most of the Jewish law--it was said that it was safer to be Herod's pig than his son.  The only survivor was a granddaughter--Herodius, who married an uncle: Herod Phillip, one of Herod the Great's sons, whom she divorced to marry his brother Herod Antipas, which triggered the murder of John the Baptist. 

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